Notes and Sources on the Life of Sara Bickford, Entrepreneur (1852 – 1931)

SARA BICKFORD 

MY COMPREHENSIVE NOTES of RESEARCH SOURCES 

August – October 2020  

Kelly McCoy 1.9.21

Sara Gammon Brown Bickford (1852 – 1931) was the first Black woman to own a utility company. Born into slavery in 1852, she was separated from her parents when they were sold, and she never saw them again. The video below will weave you through the life of Sara Bickford. A Black woman who became the sole owner of Virginia City Water Company in Virginia City, Montana.

Below are suggested sources to begin your dive into the life of Sara Gammon Brown Bickford

I. Historic Sites  

 A) Virginia City, Madison County, Montana  

 1. https://virginiacitymt.com/ 

 2. PDF Map of City  

 B) Sara Bickford’s House (a.k.a Romey’s Gardens) in Virginia City City, Madison County,  Montana. The property lies 4 Blocks East of intersection of Fair-weather and Idaho  Streets. Cannot locate the specific street number or name. 

 1. https://historicmt.org/items/show/894.  

 C) Hangman’s Building (a.k.a. Virginia City Water Company) – the public utility that she owned and operated. 125 West Wallace Street, Virginia City , Madison County, Montana  1. https://mhs.mt.gov/Portals/11/shpo/AfricanAmerican/PropertyRecords/24MA2392.pdf  

II. Internet and Books that helped me to shape my story 

 A) Finding Sara Gammon Bickford by Bill Peterson, Ph.D. and Orlan Svingen, Ph.D.   Researcher Ph.D. student Laura J. Arata – 2009 

 1. https://sarahbickford.org/ 

 B) Sara Gammon Bickford – Marlette C.Lacey on BlackPast.org – 2007  1. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/bickford-sarah-gammon-1855-1931/  2. Book “ From Slave To Water Magnate: the Story of Sarah Bickford”  

 C) Women’s History – Montana’s African American Heritage 

 1. https://mhs.mt.gov/Shpo/AfricanAmericans/Womens-History 

 D) Celebrating Sarah Gammon Bickford – Montana Women’s History – 2014   1. http://montanawomenshistory.org/celebrating-sarah-gammon-bickford/ 

III. Other resources folks might find helpful to learn more 

 A) Book “ Race and the Wild West Sara Bickford, The Montana Vigilantes, and the Tourism  of Decline 1870 – 1930” by Laura J. Arata , University of Oklahoma Press 2020.   This book is Volume 17 in the Race and Culture in the American Press – Edited by  Quintard Taylor, Historian and Professor Emeritus of American History University of   Washington, and founder of BlackPast.org.  

B) Currently there are no documentary films featuring Sara Gammon Bickford 


Video and Source List Provided by: Kelly McCoy, Producer/Content Creator  

Kelly McCoy is the founder of G.E.A.R. Shop Collective, specializing in researching,  illuminating, and amplifying culture and heritage of BIPOC communities. Passionate about  creating and curating inclusive, diverse and equitable community-based experiences. Connect with her about cultural heritage and adventure tourism experiences, adventures in the natural  environment, and crocheting on Linked In or G.E.A.R.ShopCollective


One thought on “Notes and Sources on the Life of Sara Bickford, Entrepreneur (1852 – 1931)

  1. At a very young and therefore impressionable age, I was emphatically told by my mother (who’s of Eastern European heritage) about the exceptionally kind and caring nature of our Black family doctor. She never had anything disdainful to say about people of color; in fact she loves to watch/listen to the Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinental dancers and musicians on the multicultural channels.

    This had a positive effect upon me.

    Conversely, if she’d told me the opposite about the doctor, I could’ve aged while blindly linking his color with an unjustly cynical view of him and all Black people.

    When angry, my (late) father occasionally expressed displeasure with Anglo immigrants, largely due to his own experiences with bigotry as a new Canadian citizen in the 1950s and ’60s.

    He, who also emigrated from Eastern Europe, didn’t resent non-white immigrants, for he realized they had things at least as bad. Plus he noticed—as I also now do—in them an admirable absence of a sense of entitlement.

    Thus, basically by chance, I reached adulthood unstricken by uncontrolled feelings of racial contempt seeking expression.

    Not as lucky, some people—who may now be in an armed authority capacity—were raised with a distrust or blind dislike of other racial groups.

    Regardless, the first step towards changing our irrationally biased thinking is our awareness of it and its origin(s).

    But until such positive changes happen, ugly sentiments need to be either suppressed or professionally dealt with, especially when considering the mentality is easily inflamed by anger.

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